This week 3M unveiled a stethoscope with a built-in Bluetooth radio that aims to enable physicians to detect heart murmurs and other afflictions by sending the data recorded by the device, sending it to a PC and amplifying the sound. The device is known as the Littmann 3200.
3M's previous attempts to move sound data from electronic stethoscope to computers used infrared technology to transmit the sounds, but, according to MedCity News, those devices were considered "clunky." 3M announced plans to phase out that series of electronic stethoscopes.
The new Bluetooth-enabled device records and stores heart, lung and other body sounds while reducing ambient noise. The Bluetooth capabilities are paired with computer software that uses a series of algorithms to analyze the sounds.
Price could be a challenge, especially for 3M's stated targeted user group: primary care physicians. The Littmann 3200 costs $500. Another challenge may be the device's software, which only runs on Windows XP or Vista operating systems.
We agree with MedCity News when it wonders why "in the world of BlackBerry and iPhone-addicted doctors, that the company didn't offer software for portable electronic devices."
3M told the publication that the device will inevitably interact with mobile phones in the future. We would even take it a step further and wonder if a Bluetooth-enabled stethoscope, once it gets to a (much) lower price point, could become a tool for consumers?